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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Arkansas hire of Smith so bad, a vacation is torn asunder


Gregg Doyel says Arkansas AD Jeff Long might be the worst judge of charcacter he's ever seen. (US Presswire)  
Gregg Doyel says Arkansas AD Jeff Long might be the worst judge of charcacter he's ever seen. (US Presswire)  

To know where this column on Arkansas football is coming from, you have to know where I am. Where am I? I'm on vacation. Not working. Not writing. Not this week. And when I'm on vacation, I'm on vacation. The computer stays off, the bosses stay away, everyone leaves me the hell alone. One of our bosses didn't get the memo and sent me an email Sunday night, wondering if I wanted to write about Ron Artest's elbow. After throwing my phone across the room, I retrieved it and wrote my boss, nicely, that it would take a lot more than Ron Artest's elbow to get me writing on vacation.

To get me writing on vacation, it would take a news story that was utterly mystifying, insulting, embarrassing, dishonorable.

It would take Arkansas replacing Bobby Petrino with John L. Smith.

And son of a ...

Arkansas did it. Arkansas hired John L. Smith. Arkansas replaced one selfish, loathsome coach with another.

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So vacation can wait, because Arkansas just hired John L. Smith as interim coach. A story like this, a mystifying, insulting, embarrassing, dishonorable story like this, doesn't come along all that often. But this one is here today, and vacation can wait. Tomorrow I can rest. Today? Today I have to explain why John L. Smith is one of the dumbest hires Arkansas could have made.

I mean, I'm sure there are dumber hires, but I can't fathom them. See, my imagination isn't good enough to conjure up a name that fits Arkansas worse than John L. Smith fits Arkansas, and this has nothing to do with football. Clearly John L. Smith fits Arkansas, football-wise, seeing that he's A) a football coach and Arkansas is B) a football team and for a few years John L. Smith was C) a member of the Arkansas coaching staff. From a football standpoint, John L. Smith fits.

From every other standpoint? This is a small pair of shorts on a 300-pound nose guard. This fit isn't merely bad -- it's disgusting.

Bobby Petrino was a bad guy. No honor, no loyalty, no decency. He was that way before Jessica Dorrell, so let's leave her and their affair out of it. Simply from an employee standpoint, the way Petrino once interviewed in midseason at Louisville for the Auburn job held by a friend, continued to flirt and flirt and flirt with other jobs, later left an NFL team in midseason ... well, you get the point. Bobby Petrino is a rotten employee. A guy who better win, and win big, to mask the fact he's such a bad guy.

And to replace Bobby Petrino, Arkansas hired a guy who was just hired at Weber State. Hadn't even coached a game at Weber State. Just worked the spring scrimmage, and now will see himself out. Thanks for the job.


In the grand scheme of things, Weber State is no Arkansas. I get that. Weber State isn't in the BCS. Is Weber State even in Division I-A? Honestly I don't know, and while I could look it up and figure it out in a few seconds, I'd rather not -- just to underscore the point that Weber State is so beneath Arkansas, that I don't even know what division it plays.

So really, what is Weber State?

It's John L. Smith's alma mater.

That's all. Just his alma mater. The school he attended from 1968-71, where he played both ways -- quarterback and linebacker -- and was the Big Sky scholar-athlete as a senior. After returning to his alma mater in December, Smith talked about leading Weber State to the national championship and gushed, "I've always had a place in my heart for Weber State."

This is who Arkansas picked to replace the indecent Petrino: It picked a guy who didn't have the decency to coach a single game after being hired by his alma mater. Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletics director, might be the single worst judge of character I've ever seen. I mean, this is the guy who hired Petrino from Atlanta in the middle of Petrino's first season as the Falcons head coach. And then to replace Petrino, Long first wanted the Seahawks' Pete Carroll, who left Southern California months before the NCAA could hammer USC with the harshest football sanctions since SMU got the death penalty in the 1980s.

At this point, I'm surprised Long didn't take the advice of every Twitter smartass out there and make Sean Payton the interim coach. It's not like Payton had anything else to do this fall, suspended as he is from coaching the New Orleans Saints.

Then again, maybe Long called Payton and got turned down. Or maybe Payton was going to be the next guy on Long's list after John L. Smith, assuming Smith turned it down. But then, there was no way Smith was going to turn this down. A job in the SEC? A shot at one special year, which could morph into the job on a permanent basis if Petrino's players/system make Smith look good enough?

John L. Smith was never going to turn down this job. Not out of loyalty to Weber State. Not even out of decency. Decency, John L. Smith? This is the same guy who left Louisville for Michigan State late in the 2002 season. How late? Well, it was like this. Louisville was playing Marshall in the GMAC Bowl when the news broke that Smith, coaching there on the sideline, had taken the Michigan State job. TV cameras showed Louisville players learning -- during the game -- that their coach had taken another job.

That's John L. Smith. As Weber State just learned, that will always be John L. Smith.

This is your new coach, Arkansas. Same as the old coach.

Only not as good.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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